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Essen, day 2

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008
People I met with (and/or poked around their booth) today: Primion. I knew literally nothing about these guys, who work in access, video and intrusion. Stopping by their booth, though, I was interested to see that they're taking the BACNET standard for building automation to Europe and finding success with it as a standard protocol. Smart company. Good design. Mobotix. Obviously, you've heard of Mobotix, but have you really looked at their product? By positing the camera as the central piece of the security system, with the "brains" of a DVR and needing only network attached storage, they create a fundamentally different architecture (VideoIQ does this as well, and there may be others I haven't been briefed on yet). And still they're open, and interface with a number of other cameras and software companies. Their numbers are pretty good, too. They report about $38 million in sales, with nearly $4 million in net margin. They publish a 19 percent EBITDA margin. HeiTel. Have you heard of this IP digital video company? I hadn't before I got here, but they have a stand (what they call a booth here) as big as my house. And the news they have for the Essen show is that they're coming to America. Basler. Yeah, they already came to America. Seriously, though, the company comes out of the machine vision space, and seems to have competitive IP cameras, and they're going to make sure you pay attention. Panasonic. You sure don't hear a lot of analog talk at Panasonic anymore. Where at ISC West the North American contingent put analog cameras in a ghetto (see definition 3b) off to one side, the Europeans here hardly mentioned the word "analog." They've unveiled new software and new training all geared toward bringing their legacy customers into the world of IP surveillance and reminding people they know how to make cameras and video systems. Did anyone think Panasonic would just drop their customers in a heap? Throw up their hands? And did you note that Panasonic threw their weight behind the PSIA (among a number of other companies, including Pelco, etc.)? Genetec. By all accounts, their biggest problem is how to staff their growth. Who knows what the starting point was, but 800% growth in five years is pretty solid, by my reckoning. They'll rattle off projects they've landed for hours, from airports in the Middle East to the entire Target chain. I'll try to draw some overall show conclusions on the flight back to the States tomorrow.

Essen, day 1, continued

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008
There's been a debate amongst the staff all day as to whether Essen is bigger than IFSEC. So I looked it up. IFSEC says 30,257 "professionals come together" this year. I'm guessing that means exhibitor attendees, plus regular attendees, plus various and sundry speakers, etc. But maybe not. Maybe that's just registered attendees. Security Essen says this: 1,027 exhibitors from 47 countries presented their products and services at the SECURITY Essen 2006. With some 40,000 trade visitors from 79 countries and an exhibition area extended to over 75,000 m², the world fair for security and fire protection recorded its best result so far in its successful history and clearly increased its lead as the world's No. 1 fair in this branch of industry. But I can't say that's really definitive, as there are some numbers open to interpretation there. Also, there's nothing that says Essen is as big this year as it was in 2006--other than my eyeballs, which seem to confirm it hasn't shrunk. But I won't judge by the first day of the show here, anyway, since it's a four-day show and I think tomorrow will be when the crowds matter.

Just sayin'

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008
For those of you who are angry about my recent (tepid) endorsement of Barack Obama: Check out how the end users are voting. According to the reasoning proposed by some recent emailers, the survey results indicate there are a lot of people in the industry in need of psychiatric help. Just pointing that out.

Essen, day 1

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I'll post a few times, tonight. First, check out my story on ONVIF's announcement and presence here. Inevitably, the PSIA put out a press release today as well. I respect everybody involved in both organizations, and I've written a number of times about the value of standards (though I'm not sure I've completely decided on a personal position on implementation and the finer points), and the technology is over my head, so this is what I'll say right now about these two standards efforts: They are a contrast in styles. One the one hand is the PSIA, which has got a little bit of a burr in its saddle and wants to move, move, move. On the other is the ONVIF, which is deliberate and dots all of its Ts (PSIA's pages of copy dedicated to membership discussion? 2. ONVIF's? 25). Both are populated by a lot of people who make it easy to agree with them.

Update from Amsterdam

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Sunday, October 5, 2008
On my way to the Essen show, I noticed this store front display at Versace, in Amsterdam: Gold-plated cameras all staring down the newest high-heeled boot? Who knew surveillance systems could be so hip? Now, if I could just discover who OEM'd those enclosures for Versace...

That editorial I wrote

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Friday, October 3, 2008
Okay, so the feedback is starting to come in regarding my editorial in the October paper. In it, I sort of tepidly endorse Barack Obama. You can read the editorial for my reasoning, so I won't go into it here, but the central gist of it is that while his tax policies are likely to be worse for business owners than John McCain's, I think Obama's long-run vision for energy is a game-changer. I think energy is the single most important issue of our time, and I find McCain/Palin to be covering their eyes and pretending the problem isn't there. They'd be the sort of captains who advocate more bailing (or maybe drilling) as everyone else is jumping on the life rafts. If you disagree with me, I'm okay with that. And we've gotten both positive and negative feedback that's created some cool dialogues. What I won't tolerate, however, are the cowards who've called our offices, refusing to identify themselves, and yelled into the phone that they're canceling their subscription, blah, blah, and then hung up. What purpose does that serve? I'm sorry if you've come to expect so little from your industry publications that an editorial made you angry and you didn't know what to do about it, so you lashed out in the only pathetic power grab you could think of. But, you know what, I disagree with editorials, on issues big and small, in all kinds of papers I respect (the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, among them), and I rarely spite myself by denying myself their content in the future. I love to hear people disagreeing with me. Arguing is one of my favorite past-times. And maybe I do stir the pot on purpose sometimes. But I won't engage with people throwing around ad hominem attacks and setting up strawmen to knock down. So, fire away, but keep your discourse civil and intelligent. And please acknowledge that people can hold opinions opposite to yours without being "ignorant" or "biased." Because that's what opinions are: biases.

Off to Essen

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Friday, October 3, 2008
Hey all, I'll be in transit to Essen for the next couple of days, so I won't be around to moderate comments much. Still, if you comment, I'll get to them as fast as I can. If you'll be at the show, drop me a line via Twitter and we'll hook up.

The Switzerland of standards

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Thursday, October 2, 2008
The folks at Milestone today pointed me to a blog entry by John Blem, their CTO, regarding this whole standards issue that's been getting a lot of attention (from me, anyway), with the PSIA, SIA, and ONVIF (Sony-Axis-Bosch) initiatives. I'm going to ignore for a moment that he's linking to John Honovich's standards post and not one of mine (look how big a person I am (actually, you all know how petty I am. Who am I kidding?)) to get things started, and point out a few interesting things Blem has to say about the whole situation. Why do we care what Milestone thinks? Well, without throwing my weight behind anyone (and I'm pretty skinny, anyway), I have to say that I hear more often about Milestone's "openness" than anyone else's. That's just a fact. So, here goes: Almost daily, I get questions with regard to standards being set on the camera or hardware side. Specifically, asking me why Milestone as an open platform company is not leading the charge for one of these standardizations. My answer is always the same: As an open platform software provider, we will adopt any standards emerging, but obviously we do not want to take sides when we plan to support everything. It is more important for us to follow all these standards instead of creating them. But, jeez, doesn't that cost Milestone an awful lot of money, having to constantly adapt to all of the new ways of sending information about? Wouldn't the company be well-served if there was one universal way of communicating? And I guess there's another implicit argument here as well: That there is a need to take sides. Theoretically, there could be one universal standards body that everyone got behind and there wouldn't be a need to take sides. And, also theoretically, if Milestone was active in that one universal body, wouldn't that help provide it validation? Couldn't taking sides also end the sides-taking? I'm not sure about the answers to those questions. Then John goes into a well-reasoned discussion of who benefits from standards and why. I agree with about 99 percent of it so I won't reproduce it here. Just go read it. Done with that? Okay, back to the blogging: On the analytics side, you see standards being driven as well. I cannot be sure of the motivation, but the stance that Milestone takes on this is that you cannot standardize something that has not been invented yet. What I mean by this is that the sheer speed of innovation on that particular side is moving so rapidly that it is impossible to standardize everything at this point. Eventually, I think we will see a polarized market in both the analytic and camera side where we have value-driven products versus price-driven products. This will ultimately lead to a subsequent shakeout in the market. I agree with a lot of this, but I think this is where the standards talk often gets confusing for integrators and end users and I think there's a point to be made here. Sure, analytics are still very young and I agree that you can't standardize before the largest part of the innovation happens, but I don't think using standards (here being equated with price-driven) and having differentiating features (value-driven) are diametrically opposed. I've had it explained to me a couple of times that, for example, you can use standard H.264 encoding that could be played back on any Qucktime viewer, but that doesn't limit you from having all kinds of cool features that appear in your playback and not in other people's playbacks. So, you're using a standard way of communicating, but you have better stuff to say than other people. We're standardized on the English language, in general, but some people are better talkers/writers than others, right? I don't think that's as bad an analogy as it might initially seem. One could wonder, however, why companies claiming to seek a global standard do not join an already established standards committee instead of launching a competing one. To me, it seems contradictory to have several standards driven at the same time when the overall message is that there should be a common standard. Maybe it is more important to be in the driver seat instead of trying to get as many companies as possible represented under one common standard committee? Well, I think maybe John has Bingo here, but it's also still very early in this process. It's not impossible that these competing (and only we observers say they're competing - it's not necessarily true they're working at cross purposes) entities will eventually come together to work out the best standard for the industry as a whole. That's kind of where I have my hopes pinned. I'll be seeing ONVIF's news at Essen next week, so stay posted.

Time to go faux?

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Picking up on my blog of a few days ago about homeowners putting security systems signs in front of their house when they don't have a security system, here's another story along the same lines. It's from the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune and it says that you can get Brink's and ADT signs on eBay. It also gives information and assessments of other faux security measures such as fake cameras and an interesting product that simulates the light of a TV in a room. (Did you know that many burglars are afraid of TVs?) I couldn't find any ADT or Brink's signs for sale on eBay, but I did find one for an APX sign Here's a posting for a "Security home camera warning signs 4 ADT'L stickers—but that's not ADT, that's an abbreviation for "additional." Here's my advice. If you want to go faux, you should do it right. And I've got good news for you. You can purchase the very same fake security stickers we had the Entwistle house when I was growing up. Click here to "buy it now!" There are 20 available and they're only $2 a piece. Attractive too!

Time to go faux?

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Picking up on my blog of a few days ago about homeowners putting security systems signs in front of their house when they don't have a security system, here's another story along the same lines. It's from the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune and it says that you can get Brink's and ADT signs on eBay. It also gives information and assessments of other faux security measures such as fake cameras and an interesting product that simulates the light of a TV in a room. (Did you know that many burglars are afraid of TVs?) I couldn't find any ADT or Brink's signs for sale on eBay, but I did find one for an APX sign Here's a posting for a "Security home camera warning signs 4 ADT'L stickers—but that's not ADT, that's an abbreviation for "additional." Here's my advice. If you want to go faux, you should do it right. And I've got good news for you. You can purchase the very same fake security stickers we had the Entwistle house when I was growing up. Click here to "buy it now!" There are 20 available and they're only $2 a piece. Attractive too!

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