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Now this is commitment to customer service

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Sunday, April 6, 2008
One very cool meeting I had at ISC West was with Trish Bambury, the marketing gal for new U.S. entrant Paxton Access, an IP access control maker that's done very well in the UK and is just now ramping up efforts here in the States. In general, I think their stuff is good-looking, with a very slick GUI and a general appreciation of design and aesthetics that I find largely missing in the market as a whole. But that's not even the good part. At the end of my interview with Trish (who's got one of the most interesting British accents you're likely to come across - plus I'm a sucker for all those Britishisms), she pointed me to an area of their web site where you can read every comment ever sent in response to the survey they send out following every service call. There are currently 4,772 responses posted, all dated and timed, some of them with signatures, and just about all of them are positive. But they're not filtered, as you will come across the occasional stinging indictment. That's confidence in your product and your service. Well done. You have to go back to June of 2007 to find a really sharp comment, but it ends with this, which I always find amusing: I would rather suspect this comment will not get published on the Paxton Home Page. Trish tells me the people at Paxton are "anoraks," which is a British term for calling people obsessive compulsive, from what I can tell. She says it's not quite a compliment, but if it results in what they've got to offer, it can't be that bad.

Security on a Mac!

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Friday, April 4, 2008
Well, per usual, I don't have much time to post, as ISC is kind of kicking me in the head (I suppose it wasn't totally necessary that I be out till 2 a.m. gambling last night...), but there is at least one bit of exciting news: You can finally get a video management system that works on a Mac! Check this out: This has been a complaint of mine ever since I've entered the industry - nothing works on a Mac. Considering that significant portions of certain industries - graphic design, education - use Macs almost exclusively, this seemed to me like a bit of an oversight. Well, Exacq has finally done it. They've got a great interface and a really powerful video management engine, and here at the show they're actually showing it running on a Mac. I've never seen it before. I talked to Roger Shuman at their booth and he says it was a response to integrators saying they wanted the capability for the educational vertical. Imagine that. I know this is more exciting for me than for you.

Off to ISC West

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Friday, March 28, 2008
Just an FYI that'll be out of pocket until Tuesday, at the earliest. If, like me, you're heading to ISC West, please take a minute to stop by the booth and see me. I'll be there, at #23149, from noon to 1 p.m. on Wed. and Thurs., and from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday. If no one comes by, I'll be forced to blog in the booth, and no one wants to see that... If you won't be at ISC, then you'll need to stop back by the blog Wed.-Fri., as I'll be posting some thoughts and observations and maybe posting some video if I get the time. Either way, next week is going to be a big old ISC West break-down of a blog, so that ought to be entertaining. Theoretically.

Did I leave my coffee pot on?

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Thursday, March 27, 2008
Everybody wants a piece of the remote monitoring pie. Here's an article about SureWest, a California communications company, launching a remote monitoring service. Sounds like a plug and play system where they send you a camera, some sensors, a little bit of hardware/software and, of course, instructions. I'm always curious if these companies have dedicated customer service for new ventures like this, because frankly, no matter how simple it sounds, most of us are mildly-to-severely technologically challenged and setting up a system is probably at least a little tricky. The system appears to be completely self-monitored and I'd say only has a security application in passing, (you get alerts when your front door opens, for example, and can access video on-demand), but the concept of remote monitoring is something the security industry should take note of. The concept itself is fairly appealing. I spoke with Bill Diamond from Xanboo (they're the company that designed basically everything for AT&T's Remote Monitoring system, from technology to service) and he said the real driver for residential video, specifically, is the revolution of the cell phone. When people really start using their cell phones to check-in on their home, turn on lights, regulate temperature and who knows what else, the remote monitoring market will explode. And shouldn't security be the natural driving force behind remote monitoring? Anyone who doesn't at least dabble in home automation seems to be missing out on a significant opportunity to sell more than security to their customers and even if it's not full blown remote monitoring capabilities, at least it's a step in the right direction. I wonder if it could save me from stressing about whether or not I left my coffee pot on?

An interesting UTC-Diebold development

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Thursday, March 27, 2008
Looks like UTC has had a card up its sleeve all along: It already owns 3.5 percent of Diebold's outstanding shares. Kapow! Actually, I'm not sure what that means. UTC believes it's the sixth largest shareholder of the company, which should give them a little juice, but it's not exactly sitting in the catbird seat. Should they team up with a couple of the top five shareholders, then maybe they're all in business to come up with a slate of board members and start really shaking things up. (My apologies for not being able to figure out who those top five are - it's possible they're all board members, actually. I looked through their SEC filings, but all I could find was a total of 60,000 or so shareholders.) That assumes, of course, that the top fives are looking to sell for $40 a whack and agree with UTC that they aren't going to get a better offer. If they believe the Diebold board, then they'd think UTC were trying to buy low (despite a 66 percent premium) and be insulted by UTC's offer in the way the board is. Diebold's board is certainly unimpressed by UTC's unveiling. Here's the important part, I'd say: The company currently anticipates its financial review will be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2008 and it will make all appropriate filings as soon as possible thereafter. Those numbers are going to tell a big story to Diebold's real value, and whether the $40 offer is fair or a lowball. In the last annual report the company filed, at the end of 2006, Diebold reported sales of just under $3 billion. So, if UTC's offer is right at $3 billion, we're talking about a sales price of one times annual sales (or a little less). That might be the going rate for a smaller integrator, but I'm thinking UTC should expect to pay a premium for Diebold's size and name recognition (though some of that name recognition is negative in some respects). Probably 1.5 times sales is more like going rate. That's kind of a $1.5 billion difference...

American Idol featured a security guard, and I didn't know it?

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Thursday, March 27, 2008
I'm blown away by a throwaway line in this story about not-very-good American Idol contestant Chikezie getting sent home last night. As in, the 22-year-old airport security inspector from Inglewood, Calif. What? I totally would have been rooting much harder for the big man if I had known this. How did this get by me? And what a great opportunity missed for the security industry (I'm assuming, perhaps wrongly, that he's working for a private guard firm contracted with the TSA). This guy should be in PSAs for the TSA, for sure. "Hey kids, this is Chikezie. Remember how I was the tenth best American Idol contestant this year? Well, it's okay that I lost, because now I can get back to making sure everyone who flies through LAX is flying safely and securely." Then he could start covering that Men Without Hats tune, "Security (Everybody Feels Better With)," and then the commercial fades out with Chikezie carefully inspecting somebody's bag with a big ol' smile on his face. Really, I think somebody needs to make that happen. Perhaps GE Security could sponsor it, or Clear, since the two of them are teaming to make some big bucks off aviation security and screening. By the way, has anybody put much thought into the chorus of that Men Without Hats song? I was just thinking about it: If something in the world seems right then it is what I know This is where I want to be, so this is where I go Everybody feels better look inside and see a radio, a radio Everybody feels better with security If anybody can explain the radio reference to me, I'd be appreciative. Do they mean, like, a walkie-talkie kind of radio, that security guards used in the 1980s? I'm confused. Also, in that article about Chikezie, there's something about two straight bluegrass songs. Huh? Just cuz he got a little country with a Beatles tune doesn't mean they were jamming on mandolins and banjos back there. Bluegrass isn't just a cool word for country, people.

Now that's how you get good press

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I've been harping on security companies to do a better job with getting some mainstream press, but it seems at least one Canadian company doesn't need my advice. After hearing that a 91-year-old man had been robbed three times in a week, Webnet Global Security Systems offered to install and monitor a security system for the guy, free of charge. Now that's how you get good press. Plus, the company is brand-new, part of WebNet Global, a wireless mesh provider looking to bring wireless broadband services to the home. What better way to kick things off (notice the security link I provided above takes you to a page under construction) than with some feel-good story about helping out a helpless old man? I mean, you couldn't ask for better press than this: "They thought it was an awful thing that happened, and we decided to do something for the gentleman, at no cost to him, because he's 91 years old and these perpetrators are preying on him," Gilroy said. "We will not ask for one dime from him for anything," he said. "There will be no charge for monitoring, for installation. Nothing. Just a free system installed to help the guy out." Don't you have a 91-year-old in your community who could use a hand? (I could make a bad joke about his impact on your attrition numbers, but I'll refrain.)

Security homework for the weekend: See this movie

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
For those of you who want to assess the way security is portrayed in movies—and isn't that why we all go to the movies?— you'll have another chance on Friday. A movie, based where else but Las Vegas, called "21" is opening March 28. It's based on a true story of some card-counting MIT kids who win big at the Las Vegas blackjack tables. Here's the trailer. I can't really recommend it as I've only seen the trailer. The danger, of course, is that it could be the 90210 version of Oceans 11; on the other hand, the plot sounds fun, and it's got Kevin Spacey and at least a little Jim Morrison in the soundtrack...and there's that security system to check out as well. Here's an interesting interview from today's Boston Globe with Jane Willis. The character played by Kate Bosworth in the movie is based on Willis, who is now an attorney with the venerable Ropes & Gray law firm in Boston. Fifteen years ago, as a student at Harvard Law, she and friends from MIT earned some extra spending money playing blackjack in Las Vegas. And here's a tip for any female math geeks out there: From the story: In addition to being a skilled player, Willis had the advantage of being a woman. Security at Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand, and other Las Vegas casinos was always on the lookout for card counters but rarely suspected female patrons. "I could almost count out loud and not get caught," she says

All I need is a tour of the Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil show

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
ISC West hasn't even happened yet, and already I'm looking at another trip to the strip in June for the National Fire Protection Association's annual World Safety Conference & Exposition which is taking place this year in Las Vegas from June 2-5. Las Vegas in June? Viva la heat. It's going to be getting hitting perfect temps here in Maine at about that time, and yet I'm thinking I'm going to have to head out to the desert a day early to catch this cool tour that the NFPA cooked up for the day before the show. It's a Behind the Scenes Tour & Technical Presentation of the Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil Show at the Mirage. They're going to demo the automation, sound and projection systems and all the complex fire detection systems that are incorporated into the theater design. It's on Sunday, June 1, from 8:30-2. Presenters include Douglas Evans, P.E., Clark County Building; Richard Muller, RJA; Brad Geinzer, JBA Consulting Engineers; Stephen DiGiovanni, Clark County Fire Department; Armin Wolski, P.E., ArupFire. Lunch and transportation from Mandalay Bay is provided. Click on the link above to register.

The culture of "not my problem"

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
So, I wrote in my last post about the problem with employees who are not exactly on board with the security effort. Well, this thread on Slashdot ought to scare plenty of those security directors out there, and might be good food for thought for you integrators out there preparing solutions. Basically, an employee asks how to secure a laptop and other equipment that have to be left out in a cube at night. Many of the posters ridicule her as a former office-owner, others offer solutions (some good, some ridiculous), but here's an example of one of the most popular types of responses: You speak as if this notebook is your personal property. It really shouldn't be. Your company should be supplying you with the equipment you need to do your job, and if the company equipment gets stolen when you're not around, that's the company's f***ing problem, not yours. Yikes. It's hard to secure an environment where the people in it don't really care all that much if it's secure. Of course, when their work computers actually do get stolen, and they lose all the music they've downloaded and pictures they've uploaded, then they scream at the security director for being an idiot who can't secure their environment.

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