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On the Fence

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Here's a profile article by CE Pro Magazine about Wayne Alarm Systems in Lynn, Mass. The owner, who if you're at all keyed into the monitoring industry, will know as Ralph Sevinor posing in his well-known alarm museum. Even a relative newbie to the industry like me knows Ralph (but I always want to call him "Wayne"- Does anyone else have that problem?). The premise of the article is exactly the topic we here at SSN continually tout: How can security companies increase their RMR by entering the home automation space? I think this paragraph makes a good point about some of the insecurities felt within the industry: A company like Wayne Alarm Systems can't snap its fingers and start offering control, according to Sevinor. "It's a philosophical change," he says. "When somebody looks at a home automation system or a TV, they're looking at a life expectancy of two or three years. When somebody is looking at a security system, they're looking at 20 years." According to the article, Sevinor has tasked an employee (the other guy in the photo) to investigate the profitability of entering the "control" space, as CE Pro refers to it. This is probably a decent and smart business strategy and I hope the next article about Wayne Alarms (perhaps done by yours truly) will be about its entrance into the space. It would be a good, reassuring example for the rest of the industry, many of who are also on the fence about all this ding dang new technology, and proof that, yes, it can be done. Show us the way Ralph, I mean Wayne, I mean Ralph.

InGrid knows whom to pay off

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008
When it comes to media manipulation, the InGrid has few peers in the security industry. Not only have they launched a great set of ads, employing Jerry Zucker, but now they've managed to weasel their way into the annual "Summer Home Security Tips" piece that every crappy newspaper in the country eventually runs. Here's a version of it from the Elk Grove Citizen. The story is provided by ARA Content, which "provides free, high quality feature articles to reporters, editors and print publishers. These features are copyright free and in a variety of categories coordinated to fit the editorial calendars of a typical newspaper. Whether you have a seasonal need or a regular space to fill, our content is available online and updated regularly. All articles are written or edited by professional journalists and the majority include high-resolution photos." When most small-town editors see these pieces come across, they think: "Sweet. Free content. Time to go fishing." Of course, they're paid for by companies like InGrid. Take a look at the actual content the American people are getting from their friendly neighborhood local paper: * Make your home look lived in Ask a friendly neighbor to make sure the lawn is mowed and keep an eye out for unusual activity around your house. Suspend newspaper and mail delivery or have someone collect them for you and make sure the trash cans are put out and brought in on time. The more lived-in your home appears to be, the less inviting it is to thieves. Okay, der, obviously. * Leave a light on Put a few lights and a radio on timers set to go on and off at random times during the day and evening. Leaving one light on the entire time you're away is an obvious sign that no one is around to turn it off. Close most of your window shades, but keep a few open on upper floors for light to shine through and make it look like someone is home. Install motion detector lights by each entry to your home, including the garage. Thieves don't want to be in the spotlight! Yep, that's pretty similar to your first point there. * Don't invite a climber Don't leave toys or ladders around your yard, they can easily be used to stand on or climb up to break into your home. Likewise, prune back any tall trees with branches near upper windows. Hmm. Haven't heard that one before. If the thief is going to break into a window anyway, why would he/she climb up a ladder to do it on the second floor? * Lock it up It sounds obvious, but lock the doors and windows - more than 50 percent of thieves burglarize homes by walking right in. Use deadbolt locks that can only be opened with a key and forget about hiding the key under a doormat. If you must keep a key nearby, purchase a steel lockbox with a combination that is specifically made to store keys. Yep. Lock your house. Good tip. * Sound the alarm A survey by Temple University found that alarm systems, when used with other precautions, reduce the likelihood of burglary by more than 60 percent. InGrid Home Security is one of the first home security solutions that works wirelessly through a home's broadband connection and is built with multiple system backups for added safety - that means there is no single point of vulnerability such as phone lines that can be cut. Wireless home security systems also allow for monitoring, arming and disarming from anywhere, via a Web site to let you double check on your home while away. InGrid offers around-the-clock professional monitoring and the money-saving option for homeowners to install the system themselves, allowing them to set up sensors wherever they would like, for both emergency and non-emergency alerts. Whoa. Seems to me lots of companies offer wireless backup. But Johnny and Sally Consumer might think, 'Gee, that's a new idea. I'm going to buy an InGrid system! Sign us up!' This is not responsible newspapering. This is, however, insidious marketing. Good for InGrid. Ethically bad for the crap newspapers who print this garbage. They are not serving their readers unless the piece is clearly marked as advertising. * Don't squirrel valuables away Thieves aren't dumb, they know people like to stash their goods under the bed, between the pages of books and in the sock drawer. Store your valuables in a safe-deposit box at the bank or in a safe you can bolt to the floor. Taking a few simple precautions before taking off for vacation can provide the peace of mind you need to relax during your time off and come back to home sweet, secure home. Thanks Elk Grove Citizen. I totally feel safe now!

Wren and Tippy

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Monday, July 14, 2008
It's pretty hard for me to read this very nice piece about Wren Solutions without giggling a little. First off, Wren is run by a guy named "Tippy"? Like Wren and Tippy? Like Ren and Stimpy? How did I not know that? I've only met Andrew Wren, whom I'm guessing is Tippy's son. This is Tippy: This is Ren and Stimpy: Hmmm. I'm going to say there's a bit of a resemblance there. (Sorry, Tippy.) Is there a security-related inspiration for one of the most twisted cartoons ever produced? I think more investigation may be needed. And you've got to love the caption they provide for Tippy: Cliff “Tippy” Wren is the founder of Wren Solutions, located in St. Martins. He started working for his father in his pre-teen years and is celebrating 25 years at Wren Solutions. Am I the only one that thinks that sounds like Tippy is only 40 or so? Is so, he hasn't aged all that well...

McGraw leave GE for ADT

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Friday, July 11, 2008
Tony McGraw is ADT's new regional vice president for the western United States. He'll be based in Aurora, Colo. and be responsible for ADT operations in 23 states. He reports to ADT president John Koch. Here's the press release. McGraw was with GE for 24 years before coming to ADT. Most recently, he was GE Security's general manager of global service operations in the Homeland Protection Division. Before that, he held various management positions within GE Healthcare.

It's meta-surveillance video

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Friday, July 11, 2008
You post-structuralists out there will appreciate this story: Jacksonville police have video of someone stealing surveillance video. I know. Wha? The story is about as badly organized and constructed as possible, but the first paragraph gets the gist of it: One day after three men robbed a young mother at gunpoint, inside her home - someone stole the surveillance video from detectives. That theft was caught on camera. I mean, that's a really crappy couple of sentences (is there a reason for the hyphen?), but the point is that one crime (the robbery of the young mother) was caught on home surveillance footage. And then that footage, which was in the possession of the police, was stolen. And they got that crime on video, too. And, seriously, I've got to go through the whole rest of this article because it's just too crazy in so many ways: Doctor Royce McGowan refuses to watch Wednesday's surveillance video of the invasion into his Arlington home. His wife, mother-in-law and baby were inside the home when the men kicked in the front door. "I just listened to it once. I can't listen to it again. It enrages me," said McGowan. Yes, really, that's the next paragraph in the story. Yes, you can figure out why we're talking about McGowan (I like how they spell out "Doctor" - that's totally AP style), but it's not actually clear from the preceding paragraph which seems to talk about a young mother. And in the first paragraph, why was only the young mother relevant? Usually, if there's a baby involved, that baby's in the lede (that's a journalism term there - you're supposed to spell it wrong). And why are we talking about "listening" to surveillance footage? Shouldn't we be watching it? Did McGowan refuse to watch the video and only listen, and only do that once before turning over the footage to the coppers? I'm confused. He gave the video to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. He hopes the clear pictures of the men will help detectives find them. Why are we in the present tense for the second paragraph here, especially considering this next sentence? However his home surveillance video was stolen from police. The theft was caught on his office surveillance camera Thursday. "Crime is everywhere - you can't escape it," said McGowan. This doesn't really seem like a potential problem. How could the video be stolen? There was only one copy of the footage and that was given to the police? What was it a VHS tape or something that they didn't make a copy of? This doesn't seem remotely possible. And I'd like the "his office" to be a little clearer. Why are the cops interviewing the couple at McGowan's office if the incident happened in their home? I'm still confused. While a JSO detective was interviewing the couple inside the office, the surveillance cameras caught a man pulling up next to the detectives car in the parking lot. It would kill people to use apostrophes correctly. How do we show possession? Maybe by writing "detective's"? After scoping out the car for more than 10 minutes, the man broke out the car's back window and stole the laptop. Inside that laptop was a DVD of the surveillance video from Wednesday's home invasion. "Without that... we wouldn't have any recollection on who did it," said McGowan. Okay, I love that a guy was able to smash the window of a cop car, steal a laptop, and get away without anyone doing anything about it. That's awesome. But, seriously, why is a reporter acting like it's news that a DVD of surveillance video was stolen? Is it possible that's the only copy of the footage, like there's a security camera out there that just spits out DVDs and if you lose that DVD, well, you're SOL (that's also a very important journalistic term, but I'm not going to spell it out for you)? Isn't it more newsworthy that a cop's laptop was stolen? That seems like a bigger deal to me. McGowan had just moved into the Brentwood Avenue office two months ago. The cameras have been in place for fewer than three weeks. This doesn't seem relevant to me, but those are, indeed, two declarative sentences. His security company, Homeland Security Group, was able to replace the DVD. The laptop and the thief are still missing. Huh. So that first paragraph, where it was newsworthy that the surveillance video was stolen, was kind of disingenuous, wasn't it? Because you, the reporter, already know that footage was easily replaceable and therefore this isn't news. And what about the surveillance footage of the laptop theft? Did we get a license plate number? Is the face visible? No idea. At least they named the security company. That's a rarity. JSO says there is no sensitive information on the laptop. This might be my favorite part. A cop's laptop has "no sensitive information" on it? How are we defining "sensitive" here? What does he use the laptop for? Playing Minesweeper when he's bored by the side of the highway? So, a cop's laptop is stolen from the back of his car and we're worried about the DVD inside of it? Super. McGowan plans to add cameras to their home and business. Why? You caught both recent crimes on video. Is this just a last sentence because it seemed like there had to be a last sentence somewhere? Well done, award-winning news anchor Victor Blackwell (or, more likely, Victor's intern). Well done.

Home blaze brings eagle home

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Thursday, July 10, 2008
A fire that broke out in a Glen Burnie, Maryland home led fire investigators to a trove of stolen guns, scrap metal, copper tubing, and a $20,000 Jim Dolan stainless steel eagle sculpture, which had been filched from an office park in Elkridge, Md. on July 1. The eagle, which has a 10-foot wing span, is in police custody, but will be returned to its rightful owners in the near future.

People are even dumber than you thought

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Thursday, July 10, 2008
In the course of my google searching for security stories, this one keeps popping up. It's been in four or five publications. I'm convinced at this point that it's real. Check it out. The headline got me to click: Mix-up uncovers error in home security setup. (I would have gone with set-up hyphenated, but whatever.) So, okay, maybe this is something people need to worry about, this error, I'm thinking. So I read further. Here's the error: A Jennings resident recently gave her security company an incorrect address. When her alarm accidentally went off, police did not show up. Yeah, it can be a problem when you don't know where you live. Luckily, the cops are around to give people sound advice: "We are telling people to make sure they've given the right address ... Whenever you install a security system, make sure that everything is in order. This is something the homeowners should verify for themselves." Yes, definitely verify you've given your alarm company that actual address where you live. Like, don't say you live in St. Louis if you actually live in Jennings, because that would be a bad idea. Good thing we have crack reporters working at local newspapers to bring these vital issues to light. The rash of people giving their alarm companies addresses other than the ones at which they live has been averted, I'm certain.

Fireworks and false alarms

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Hard to believe the 4th of July has come and gone. I took a nice little trip to Ohio to visit the grandparents and ended up driving 16 hours straight back to the East Coast by myself. I was certainly cracked out on caffeine and loud music by the time I rolled in around 2AM. Certainly not a traveling strategy I would recommend. But, it's always nice to have a little time off work, which, by the massive amount of "out of office" replies I've received lately, I'm guessing many of you continue to enjoy. That's summer for you. I hope you got to enjoy 4th celebrations. I didn't get to see any fireworks this year, which I was sadly disappointed about. And, based on this news report out of Denver, others missed out on the show too. This guy had obviously spent a lot of money to buy his own holiday entertainment (or perhaps supplement his income since his entire garage was chock-a-block full of illegal fireworks). His burglar alarm went off, police showed up, discovered his stash and arrested him and ruined more than his weekend. Of course, no one was trying to steal his stash, just another case of a false alarm leading police to other violations. I sure bet he wished Denver had a stricter verification policy. Funny they don't include any statistics about how many unrelated arrests are made on the coattails of false alarm responses. I think someone oughta keep track.

Are the spiders getting to you?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

That was the single worst photo of a spider I could find. They're apparently "camel spiders" (not sure if this information is urban legend or not) and they terrorize soldiers in Iraq. Apparently they like to hide out in sleeping rolls. Gives me the crawlies. Anyway, such spider interest is triggered by the following press release that came in today. For some reason, this product seems oddly very attractive. Perhaps you want to buy a "tin." QED, UK distributors of security equipment and accessories have developed a new spider deterrent in the form of an aerosol spray. The product, called Spiderex has been launched under their new Midas brand.  It is a specially formulated clear spray which when applied to any area will deter spiders for up to 8 months.  This is a revolutionary new product that has been developed specifically for the security industry. It's "revolutionary," mind you. Spiders like creating their webs in warm places, which, unfortunately for security installers, includes around CCTV camera housings and PIR detectors. This, in effect, causes false alarms with PIR detectors or build up of material in front of a CCTV camera. In any case, maintenance is required to resolve these issues. Too much time has been spent by installers getting rid of spiders and the issues they cause for security systems. QED’s Marketing Manager Matt Byrom commented: “Spiderex is a simple product yet having a can will provide a massive impact on the time spent on maintenance and profits of a security installer.”  He continued “In fact, even if Spiderex was to stop one service call it would have paid for itself many times over.” A "massive" impact. QED believes this will solve one of the biggest causes of false alarms in CCTV systems and also stop the build-up of spider related material such as webs in CCVTV cameras and housings. Spiderex is on Special Offer now at £5 OFF per tin + FREE Delivery and available from www.spiderex.co.uk. Please, please, please leave some comments (click on the word "comment" below - it's easy) on whether spiders are actually a big problem for you on the installation end. I'm desperate for some good spider stories. Seriously. I hate spiders. And my wife always makes me kill them. You should have seen the size of the dock spider I killed in the living room of our lake house last week. I hit it with my shoe, but kind of whacked it instead of leaving the shoe on the carpet and the spider bounced about three feet into the air and scared the crap out of me. But then it was pretty dead.

Hiring illegal aliens=bad idea

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Monday, July 7, 2008
Okay, I'm back to blogging. I've spent the last week lounging by the side of a lake in Maine where there is no cell coverage nor Internet access and it was luxuriously relaxing. Also, we ran through five liters of Jameson, so other portions of the vacation are hazy. While I sort through 500+ emails, here's an update on Mace's car washes that just won't go away: Horsham-based car wash company Car Care Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mace Security International, pleaded guilty June 24 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Oh, just one count. That's not that bad, really. From 2000 to 2006, Car Care managers at car washes in Norristown, Flourtown, Bryn Mawr and Cherry Hill, N.J., hired illegal workers by giving them false names and a way to cash their checks at local banks without identification, a press release said. "We're not talking about a few illegal workers who slipped through the cracks," U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan said in the press release. "To the contrary, dozens of illegal workers made up the majority of Car Care's workforce at these locations. This is harboring illegal aliens in its simplest form." According to the indictment, on a given day, illegal immigrants made up approximately 90 percent of the workforce at the locations. Hmmm, actually, that seems really bad. Seriously? Ninety percent? Each manager who pleaded guilty faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' supervised release. Yikes. That's really bad. That career in car-washing is headed right down the tubes. Luckily for the security side of things, Mace ain't the military: Aside from one of the regional managers, no higher management was charged, Car Care defense attorney Eric Sitarchuk said. Not a whole lot of site visits going on, I guess. I know it doesn't have anything to do with security, but I'm fascinated by these car washes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey actively working to defraud the U.S. government. 1. Couldn't you just find some high school kids to work cheap? 2. Couldn't you just pay them in cash, so you didn't have to go through the whole fake-name check-cashing scheme? 3. Aren't car washes pretty cash-positive as a rule? Did you really need to hire 90 percent illegal aliens to turn a profit?

This all just seems so stupid. If Mace can't sell these car washes off soon enough, can they just make like a baseball team and designate the car washes for assignment? Put them on the disabled list? Offer them an outright release?

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