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InGrid vs. Traditional Security Man

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Monday, May 19, 2008

On the left: InGrid, a new wireless self-install (or professionally installed if you prefer) home security system. On the right: in a tangle of wires and packing a drill, your traditional home security system. It's a television ad and it's like Apple's "Mac vs. PC" for home security. I had my doubts when (InGrid CEO) Lou Stilp told me in 2007 at the Barnes Buchanan conference that he believed InGrid could be the kind of home security system that people would want to use and would think is fun to own--but this kind of packaging is a very good start. Stilp hired Jerry Zucker of National Banana (known for his work on the old movies Airplane and Naked Gun) to produce a bunch of new commercials that are funny and show that InGrid delivers "superior security, reliability and connectivity." The commercials debut on cable network RCN in Chicago and Philadelphia later this month. Here's the story. Guess I should be all tangled up in wires 'cause I can't figure out how to post the video here, so you'll have to cut and paste the following URL the old-fashioned way to see the commercials. http://www.ingridhome.com/rcn

Home decor with a security twist

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Friday, May 16, 2008
So in my search for news this morning, I ran across this "security product." It's called the Safe Bedside Table and converts from a table into, well, duh, a club and shield so you can protect yourself from an intruder. The accompanying text gives some explanation: While an alarm system will let you know if someone has broken into your home it won’t do much to stop a determined intruder once they’re inside. So instead of sleeping with a gun under the pillow try this Safe Bedside Table instead. When not in use it looks like a normal bedside table with modern design stylings but in the middle of the night if you think there might be an intruder the table turns into a club and shield giving you somewhat of a fighting chance."Somewhat" of a fighting chance? I guess that's better than no chance at all. Well, if you were getting all excited about this product, I hate to tell you that the last part of the Web site reveals that it's not actually for sale, but "anyone with a lathe, bandsaw and basic carpentry skills could probably just build their own." Geez, thanks, I'm sure you'll all get right on that. Until then, I guess you'll just have to settle with the gun under the pillow.

Lost in transmission

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Thursday, May 15, 2008
I've seen several news reports recently about people who thought their security system was being monitored (and were often paying for monitoring services), but in fact their system was never reporting to a central station. Not a very positive security message. Well, one company, Urban Alarm out of D.C., has recognized this trend too and is marketing its systems by focusing on its testability. This article (actually, it's a press release) urges customers to regularly test their alarm systems to verify transmission and, just so you know, Urban Alarm is willing to help alarm system users out even if they aren't customers. I bet they are. I know this picture doesn't exactly capture the testing procedure, but you get the idea.

Pro One revenues and net loss up

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Thursday, May 15, 2008
Here's a local newspaper's take on Protection One's latest earnings. (P1 is based in Kansas.) The good news is that total revenue, RMR and adjusted EBITDA are all up from 2007(thanks in large part to the company's merger with IASG), however, the company's net loss is also up. Protection One attributes this loss to the cost of the IASG merger and the cost of refinancing its $110 term loan. And here's the official P1 first quarter earnings press release a local newspaper's take on Protection One's latest earnings.

Meshing around in Richmond

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I'm here in Berkeley, California, arrived yesterday actually, for an ADT media event. Today we spent most of the day in the city of Richmond (pictured above) which is not far away from this hip college town, but it's very different. An important shipbuilding port during WWII, Richmond is a diverse city with considerable challenges in terms of the crime and security. We spent the day checking out their new public security camera system and talking to the municipal people involved. Actually there are two security systems that can be connected in future. One is in the city and was installed primarily for crime reduction, vandalism and to curb illegal dumping of waste. The second is in the Port of Richmond and is part of its homeland security initiatives. The $4.5 million project include 116 fixed and PTZ cameras (Axis cameras using analytics by Object Video) built on a BelAir Networks mesh network. "One of the highest capacity mesh networks in the country," according to Craig Reed of ADT. Interesting, I thought, that this project all started at the local level. A group of Richmond citizens concerned about crime came to a City Council meeting and said they thought cameras should be installed in the city. They weren't looking for far-ranging high technology solution--just a deterrent to crime. Yet the outcome of those citizens' initiative is an impressive installation that has capabilities (presently and in the future) for a whole range of functions including a citywide emergency system. (Remember the tragedy in Minneapolis with the bridge collapse? The Minneapolis mesh network was key to emergency personnel, government workers,and others being able to communicate during that time. Richmond's mesh network comes from the same vendor--BelAir Networks.) The city and ADT have done an impressive job bringing all the relevant experts and concerned parties (the ACLU for example) into the process, and doing it early. Smart politics. Tomorrow we'll hear from Sir Chris Fox, (yes, he was knighted by Prince Charles) president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in the U.K. He's going to talk about issues surrounding surveillance cameras in public spaces. Fox helped coordinate national police operations in response to the terrorist bombings in London in 2005 and the deployment of 8,000 officers to Scotland for the G8 conference. We've got a great view of San Francisco from our post here in Berkeley, and tonight we're heading across the bridge to grab a bite in that fine city. On my favorites list, it's second only to Portland, Maine.

NBFAA ally Fossella may resign from Congress

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Saturday, May 10, 2008
Facing demands for his resignation, New York Congressman Vito Fossella—a Republican from Staten Island who has worked with industry groups such as the NBFAA in the past is expected to decide this weekend whether to stay or go. The photo below is from December 2005. Fossella (center) with David Martin of Wagner College (right) and Fire Chief John Bambury of the 8th Division as he announces new legislation to help prevent college fires. Things went from very bad to a lot worse for Fossella in the past 10 days. Here's an AP story from today. Last week he ran a red light in Washington, D.C., was stopped and charged with drunken driving. According to the New York Times, he said he was going to pick up his daughter. In the next few days, it was revealed that Fossella—who has three children and a wife in Staten Island—also has a mistress and three-year-old daughter in Alexandria, Virginia.

One word: Tape

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Thursday, May 8, 2008
Remember in The Graduate when Dustin Hoffman gets that sage advice from one of his dad's friends: "One Word: Plastics." Here's a refresher: That scene is what came to mind today when I saw this story about the "newest trend in home security." Guess what it is? one word: Tape. According to this story, there's a great future in tape. Big honkin' sheets of tape that you put all over your windows. It makes 'em harder to break. You could use it for cars too. Think about it.

PSA-TeC, day 2

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Today was PSA-TEC's trade show day, where about 100 vendors showed their wares. It's like a maxi-boutique atmosphere, as it's a fairly large show floor, but all of the booths are pretty low-key and the only people attending are integrators, since there's really no residential presence in PSA and there aren't any end users here. So it's all business, which is a good thing. Very high-level conversations, and a good amount of time to talk. Here are some of the salient points: This is party because I think a lot of the attendees blow off the trade show part a little bit. They've been busy with the trainings, we just had a big party last night where there was a significant amount of free booze (I also , and this is the hump day of a long conference where they can relax. The morning rain probably kept a number of them off the golf course, but the traffic the show hall was still a bit light in general. Everybody congregated for lunch, though, and that was a good crowd with a full room. Normally I'd give you the details of the lunch-time presentation, but I gave it, so I'm going to go one step further and actually post here my presentation (I did it in iWork's Keyone, so I can export it as a quicktime file, with slides moving every 10 seconds - that may be too long for some of you, but I can assure you it's not more than five minutes). My talking would certainly improve the experience, but I couldn't figure out a good way to do that in iMovie. Maybe I'll try again when I have more time at home and post a presentation with sound next week. Anyway, the gist of the presentation is that integrators need to add more recurring revenue to their businesses, and you've read my remonstrances on that front a number of times if you're a loyal blog reader. The sexiest part of the presentation is in the middle where I compare the SST and HSM buys by ADT and Stanley, respectively. Note the fact that both had roughly $200 million in revenue in the year prior to their purchase, but, due largely to the fact that 11 percent of SST's revenue was recurring and 50 percent of HSM's was recurring, they sold for $187 million and $545 million respectively. You'll see their EBITDA margins compared, etc. Also note at the end of the graphs that some might say Stanley got the better deal, as they only paid 60x RMR for HSM, while ADT paid 89x RMR. It's just one way of looking at a deal, I realize, but interesting nonetheless. So, here it is. I'd appreciate feedback on it if you can glean some of the point.

In a jamb

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008
So, I just happened to come across this "security" product (and, you're right, this has nothing to do with monitoring). The product is called Door Jamb Armour and it's advertised as a way to repair broken door jambs following a break-in and also a way to secure your door to prevent future home invasions. Interesting. The company's Web site includes this line: Intruders know that kicking in the door is the easiest way into your home. I guess. Breaking a window must be a close second, though. Regardless, this product could certainly be considered a deterrent to a very lazy thief, but I hardly think it warrants the company's logo: "Because you can't afford false security." Frankly, without any kind of security system to detect that, say, someone's trying to kick down your door, I'd say that Door Jamb Armour isn't exactly providing me worry-free nights.

Maybe they're hiring?

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008
A new integrator has popped up in Playa del Carmen, to serve the burgeoning real estate market along the Mexican Riviera. Seems like maybe that's good work if you can get it. “Many foreign investors and homeowners have to date not been too concerned about protecting their properties with security systems due to feeling safe within gated communities with private security guards” says Advanced Security Systems founder and owner Anthony Spadaro. “These measures have however not been successful in preventing homes from being burglarized and many home owners are now looking to find alternative solutions to protect their properties” Mr. Spadaro continues. Okay, so maybe Spadaro and ASS aren't so up on their comma use, but I like their business plan. As the American market cools, and Mexican/Central American/South American currency becomes more valuable, south of the border is going to start looking increasingly attractive. Despite Mexico's economy being tied so closely to the United States, the peso recently recorded two-year highs and the Mexican government is actually selling off dollars. Check out the latest Brink's earnings report. Notice why they posted such a nice bump? Operating profit for the first quarter increased 51% to $97.3 million from $64.3 million in the same quarter a year before, mainly due to strong profit growth at the company's Latin American operations and Brink's Home Security. First, that ain't a bad operating margin, earning $97.3 million on $920 million in revenue, but, second, am I the only one surprised to see the company's Latin American operations being mentioned in the earnings report? There's opportunity there.

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