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The security is out again.

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Friday, May 23, 2008
I had a conversation yesterday with Jeff Crews from 4HomeMedia (a software company) who is also a member of the Z-Wave Alliance (members of this Alliance all incorporate Z-Wave wirelessly technology into their products so they can "talk" to each other). Earlier this week, the alliance demonstrated a security solution for major cable providers at The Cable Show in New Orleans as an option for cable companies to offer a security component to their customers. It made me wonder if cable companies would really consider selling security to their customers, and, more importantly, if homeowners would embrace purchasing security from them. It seems like a similar situation with telco companies, and on the surface, it seems like a natural extension of services. However, I've heard from several security industry folks that the business models are too different. For example, telco companies, like cable companies, don't have the customer service infrastructure to support security (I've always been put on hold when calling the phone company). I suppose there's a solution to that problem, like outsourcing calls to a specialized security division, but that seems expensive and, frankly, isn't that what they already do? Plus, I feel like the cable companies can barely handle what they do and don't exactly have the best track record. For instance, my neighbor had her cable knocked out during an electrical repair and it took the cable company over a month to fix the problem. I mean, really, would people wait a month to have their security system repaired? That doesn't exactly exude a sense of security. But, I definitely think the Alliance's appearance at the show is worth a second thought.

A visit to Honeywell

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Thursday, May 22, 2008
I took a quick trip to Melville, NY on May 21 to tour the new Honeywell headquarters and attend the grand opening of the Ademco Alarm Security Museum. In addition to a handful of other trade reporters, members of Honeywell’s First Alert Professional President’s Council were there, a group that represents the top 15 FAP dealers. Among them was Ralph Sevinor of Wayne Alarm Systems who received special thanks for his help with the museum. (Ron Rothman recognizes Ralph Sevinor for his work on the Ademco Alarm Security Meeting in the top photo.) The council was holding one of its two annual meetings to coincide with this event. (I heard they generally favor more exotic locales, but I did hear they were staying in an historic Gold Coast castle.) Honeywell Security president Ben Cornett and First Alert president Joe Sausa were there; the surprise guest was Leo Guthart, former president of Ademco. (Leo Guthart below, in the new product room, with Rothman) Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics president Ron Rothman led the “backstage tour” of the spiffy new facility. In the engineering department, we saw a bunch of products on display (some prototypes, some awaiting launch, some European models that may or may not come to the Americas.) And while—OK, I admit it, the nuances of alarm systems products don’t always turn my head the way a nice pair of shoes might—it was interesting to hear what the FAP dealers on the tour had to say. And this collegial group had a lot to say; the products elicited emphatic thumbs-up and some products' components got thumbs-down. Mike Matson of Mattson Alarms told me that frank discussions along these lines are always part of the President’s Council meetings. “We give them feedback and tell them what we’re looking for,” he said. The tour included a walk through the Quality Assurance department where they shake, shower, strike-with-lightening and otherwise abuse products and products in their packaging to ensure quality. My favorite was a room that looked like a set from Star Trek, which cost a million dollars to create. It’s a chamber where they do RF testing on all products. (See the chamber in photo below. In the center of the photo in the tie is Steve Amodeo, Honeywell's vice president, Quality Security.) The QA department was established in early 80s by Leo Guthart. To avoid any rubber stamping of products, QA reports to the business leader rather than to engineering. Rothman said—and several FAP dealers (including John Jennings of Safeguard Security and John Bourque of HB Alarm) reiterated— that the establishment of this department along with the sales acumen of Guthart, helped “turn around Ademco”—at a time when some of its products were not up to snuff. In his 25-year tenure with the company, Rothman said the products have changed dramatically, but the design parameters established by Guthart have not. Tasked with manufacturing products that have to work in “the worst possible environment…there might be humidity, cobwebs, bugs, you name it…but our products have to work … they can’t interfere [with other electronics], they can’t be interfered with, they can’t cost a heck of a lot, they have to work for more than 20 years, and they have to work every single time, or we’ve failed.” Some new entrants into security manufacturing, particularly from the “cable, computer and telecommunications industries may think it’s easy to manufacture reliable security products, it’s not,” Rothman said.

Who's in Control?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
So I was just checking out this company, uControl, who just released a touchscreen control panel that can either works as its own wireless alarm system or with an existing installed alarm system. Frankly, I don't know that much about this company yet (interviews are pending), but I was struck by an eerie similarity to the company, iControl, who is also developing a similar touchscreen alarm system and I guess the similarity in name is fairly obvious. Despite the uncanny similarities, the touchscreen panels seem pretty cool and innovative. I had a chance to try out iControl's panel at ISC West and it was definitely snazzy, yet intuitive. You could do the typical alarm things like arm/disarm as well as view video cameras from the panel. It also had some "fun" features like rotating pictures, and Internet access for checking sports scores, stock numbers, weather and traffic updates. It also had the home automation element which included controlling lights, temperature and such. And even though the company names may be confusingly similar, these companies are making security cool.

NBFAA ally to retire

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
NBFAA ally Vito Fossella, a Republican Congressman from Staten Island, announced today that he will not seek reelection in November. Fossella has been sequestered with his family (wife and three children) in New York for more than a week following reports of a drunken driving incident and subsequent revelations that Fossella had a mistress and daughter in Alexandria, Va. Here's Fossella's official statement

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.

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