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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.

Early returns from PSA-TEC

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Though events began here yesterday, the meat of PSA-TEC began today, specifically with a six-hour block of programming dedicated to working with the U.S. government. As you can imagine, it was a lot to take in. Here are some of the salient points: First, a note on the economy from John Mitchell, U.S. Bancorp's Economist, Western Region, and the principal of M & H Economic Consultants (no, not that John Mitchell). Much of his presentation focused on the debate over whether we are, indeed, in the midst of a recession. His answer? Probably, maybe. He noted that the factors pointing to a slow growth, rather than a recession - namely a continuing growth in the GDP (even if it's small), the fact that jobless claims have stayed under 400,000, and that industrial production has remained up - are generally outweighed by recession-looking stats like an unemployment rate that's jumped over five percent, the housing decline, consumer confidence being at a 26-year low, and weak retail numbers. He quoted a great line from Barron's: "Recessions are like beer bellies and bald spots. Where exactly they began is hard to pinpoint, but the evidence becomes overwhelming of their existence." So, the question becomes how long will the recession last and what will the recession look like. Mitchell noted that unless you're over 42 (I'm not), you've never really experienced a recession, considering the last two - 1990-1991 and 2001-2002 - were relatively mild and short, just about eight months each. You have to go back to the early 1980s for the last true recession that really impacted people's lives, he said. So, here are the bellwethers you should be looking for: When does the housing problem end? Not only do new homeowners represent new sales, but state and local governments are affected by price drops and vacant properties when the taxes don't flow in, and this affects their ability to invest in security. If losses in home equity continues in Las Vegas, Miami, and San Diego, for example, the effect could be large. What are the implications of the credit crunch? Are there more mines to be felt in the credit industry? For example, if municipal bonds were to quickly be devalued, that would affect government's ability to spend on large projects, like new construction and security. Will current fiscal policy work? Basically, will the stimulus package, the money being sent out these past couple of weeks by the federal government, actually be spent on things that will get the economy moving again? This is tied directly to whether consumers can shrug off the big price increases in staples like gas, flour, rice, and foodstuffs in general. If this causes people to start stuffing the mattresses with dollar bills, the stimulus package is doomed and it's unlikely people are going to be investing in new security systems (though maybe they'll value security higher, feeling like they have more to protect). One other thing he said to look out for: A labor crunch is on its way. Most projections have the workforce aged 16-54 staying relatively flat through 2014. That means a growing economy will not have a growing labor force. Mitchell warned that if technology is not developed to replace jobs in some sectors, there could be a major labor shortage, just as the Baby Boomers start drawing down the Social Security fund and rapidly growing Medicare spending. Good news: Sure, there's some. For one thing, he said, health care spending ought to be "bullet-proof" going forward, so if you're working in that sector, keep at it, and if you're not, start. Also, he said education should be a robust vertical, while retail, especially, could see hard times in the short term. Much of the rest of the time was taken up with discussion of how to actually sell to the government, with much talk about HSPD-12, NIST, the GSA, the GAO, FIPS 201, and any number of other acronyms. This is truly head-spinning stuff. Deon Ford, chief technologist for SI International, a one-stop federal ID shop, doing about $670 million in revenues, helped shed some light on what the government's looking for, specifically a way to tie the vetting of an individual to a credential in a real and concrete way. That's what HSPD-12 dictates and that's what you need to be able to deliver. He thought it important to be familiar with both this HSPD-12 Conversion Mandate and the FIPS-201-1 Conversion Standard. Bookmark those links, people, if you're interested in government work. Also useful links: The NIST roadmap to Information Security Documents A recommendation for the use of PIV credentials in physical access control systems Further, you need to get on the GSA Schedule, which dictates whom the federal government can buy from. The recommendation was that integrators should get familiar with the following schedules: Schedule 84 – 146-60-1: There was talk that there's actually a paucity of integrators who've applied for this schedule, which is for security systems integration and design work. Schedule 84 – 146-60-2 is for security management support services. Schedule 84 – 146-60-3 is for security system life-cycle support, the maintenance on the systems that you sell. There's been some confusion because Schedule 84 is where access control and other physical security has traditionally been located, but HSPD-12 has been seen as on the IT side, which is Schedule 70, where the IT integrators live. Those guys don't want to be putting in readers at the door, I can assure you. Another point is that even if you're not on the GSA Schedule, you can team up with someone who is through the Contractor Team Arrangement. For those without a schedule, or with a schedule that's the wrong one, two or more contractors can work together by complementing each other’s capabilities as long as one of them has the correct schedule. Is that confusing? Yes. But check out the www.gsa.gov web site. It's still confusing, but the answers are there if you look hard enough and they absolutely need physical security integrators all over the country.

Security and jaguars

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Monday, May 5, 2008
Here's something Boeing and the Department of Homeland Security likely didn't think they'd have to deal with when they began tackling the Safe Border Initiative and the fence between the United States and Mexico: Jaguars. Seriously, there are jaguars that live in the desert area that comprises much of the U.S.-Mexico border, and there's concern they won't be able to move naturally throughout their native habitat if there's a big ol' fence in the way. Look how cool these things are: Suffice it to say, though, that the government needn't worry itself with the same laws that apply to your company when you're doing installations: Last month the Department of Homeland Security waived 30 environmental laws to finish 470 miles of the fence by the end of the year. ... "We are currently in a lawless situation at the border," says Chertoff. "I feel an urgency to get this tactical infrastructure in. And although we're going to be respectful of the environment, we're going to be expeditious." I'm sure Chertoff's definition of "respectful of the environment" is slightly different than that of any number of environmental organizations. Yep: "National security and environmental protection do not have to be at odds with each other," says Defenders of Wildlife spokesman Matt Clark. "If we can drop this arbitrary deadline for constructing the fence and go through the proper procedures, then there are inevitably ways to minimize environmental impact, but as it is now it's throwing all of those laws out the window." Gotta say I'm going with Clark on this one. For one thing, that fence may very well slow down illegal immigration, but I have to say I'm concerned with throwing laws out the window in the name of national security. Is water quality affected? Pollution control? Emissions? Let's not go putting American health in danger in the name of keeping them safe. A little paradoxical, no? Just look what rancher Warner Glenn is willing to sacrifice: "I'm a livestock rancher, but I wouldn't mind donating a few calves to that jaguar, so to speak." By the way, I'd like to have heard a word from big John McCain on this one. It's has backyard, right? Where's he stand on jaguar rights?

A case for video in the home

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Sunday, May 4, 2008
Well, as it turns out, this story from a CBS station in Philadelphia isn't as much about residential CCTV as a I hoped, but boy is it entertaining! Yes, it's yet another story about someone with a security system where the alarm company/integrator isn't mentioned. Yes, it's another story where they're talking about digital video but still use the phrase "caught on tape." No, the video in question isn't actually all that instrumental to a burglar being caught by police. But. You've got to check out Robin Pearlman, the woman who chased a burglar from her home, got down his license plate number and gave it to the police, who then arrested the bad guy. This woman is very impressed with herself (for good reason), alternatingly referring to herself as "Rambolette" and a member of Charlie's Angels (apparently she hasn't consumed much popular culture in the last 25 years or so). Great east coast accent, too. Oh, right, I'm supposed to be making a point about the security industry. Please note that the woman is very matter of fact about her residential security cameras. Nice sales tool. Privacy questions? What privacy questions? Everybody has CCTV in the home now. Even housewives in suburban Philadelphia.

Get your guns out

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Friday, May 2, 2008
Just got off the phone with the vice president of licensing for Smith & Wesson, Bobbie Hunnicutt. Smith & Wesson, for those of you non-gun loving types like me, is one of the (if not, THE) largest gun manufacturers in the U.S. Yesterday they announced their entrance into the electronic security marketplace with a partnership (or, in legal speak, "licensing agreement") with NationWide Digital Monitoring. The two company's will develop Smith & Wesson-branded security systems that will be sold and installed by specifically recruited dealers ("We are only looking for professionals," said Wayne Wahrsager, president of NationWide). NationWide, which is a division of New York Merchants Protective Co., will have a separate monitoring division in its central station dedicated solely to customers with Smith & Wesson branded systems. Both company's talked about the importance of protecting and building their brands. Hunnicutt talked about the extensive research Smith & Wesson did to understand its brand, its customers and the expectations and potential of the company. They discovered the Smith & Wesson brand was synonymous with "security and protection" and so their entrance into the electronic security market was a "natural step for us." The Smith & Wesson brand will be rolled out by 2009. I just hope part of their marketing strategy is lawn signs that jive with their bumper stickers.

A security firm is the top home integrator

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Friday, May 2, 2008
CE Pro has just released their annual list of the top integrators by revenue and there's an interesting name at the top: Guardian Home Technologies, part of the Pittsburgh-based Guardian Protection headed by Russ Cersosimo. (You know, the guy who pities the competition.) This year’s list is led by Pittsburgh-based Guardian Home Technologies with $37 million in multi-subsystem home technology revenue out of 19 locations. The company, overall, is a $120 million security company with roots in both residential and commercial alarm systems. Further, CE Pro's top 100 companies haven't felt the pinch of the economic situation yet, despite a bad builder market that must have hit them in the third and fourth quarters of last year. The list, which is in its tenth year, reported a leap in average income of 9 percent, from $6.8 million to $7.4 million. Other strong data includes a leap in the average installation price of 7 percent. I won't go further into some of the conclusions you can reach from looking at the full list because you should go check it out yourself. Security integrators need to become CE Pro readers and look at installation work that doesn't include (just) security. This is the message we've been preaching with the Security Business Development Forum (which we've just cut the admission price for, by the way): By diversifying your revenue streams, you can ride out bad economic times. Looks like Russ got that message some time ago.

Bunch of complaints about Brady's alarm company

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Friday, May 2, 2008
Take a look at this link, which includes a tv news story about Tom Brady's Cordoba, Tenn.-based alarm company, which he named, "The Alarm Company." Apparently 48 complaints have been lodged against the company in the past six years and this story says Brady's using unethical tactics to steal accounts. He's telling customers, for example, that their current alarm company, ADT, is going out of business and "The Alarm Company" will be taking over the account. "Just sign this contract and we'll continue your service." Sounds bad, but the video casts Mr. Brady in a worse light. I'm going to make some calls on this today, but Brady certainly doesn't do himself any favors by running into a back room when a tv news reporter pulls a Mike Wallace on him. Here's the link. You've got to watch a 10-second commercial before the newscast comes on.

An order of analytics, please

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Thursday, May 1, 2008
So, I finally got around to reading The New Yorker article about the man who was stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. Nicholas White, a production manager for Business Week, spent a weekend trapped in Car No. 30 of the McGraw-Hill building in New York City back in 1999. For 41 hours he paced the elevator, pried open the doors, repeatedly used the emergency phone, laid down to sleep and even smoked the rest of his cigarettes (aren't there smoke detectors in there!) ... but nothing. Nobody noticed him, not even the eight (yes, 8!) different guards who were on duty that weekend. Here's an easily overlooked parenthesized sentence in the 8,000 word article that caught my security-honed attention: (Eight McGraw-Hill security guards came and went while he was stranded there; nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.) Check out the video for yourself: I don't know how many screens these security guards monitored, but it was a weekend, people. There's little to no activity in the elevators for the duration of the video, and, there's even elevator maintenance work being done, which should at least garner some attention from the guards. (Of course, there's no maintenance work being done on the elevator car that actually malfunctioned and trapped White inside.) I'd say this is a great example of why security guards alone are not very effective. If it had been one guy who missed this, I'd say fine, maybe he was tired. But EIGHT! I know this was nearly 10 years ago and the analytic technology of today wasn't available, but if I were an analytic provider trying to convince companies to invest in notification-based video systems, this example would certainly be in my arsenal.

Brink's earnings up

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Shares of Brink's Company stock were trading high today—the highest since 2003 when it changed its name from Pittston Co to Brink's, according to a Rueters report—after the company posted higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings. Here's the official press release. First quarter income was up $48 million, or $1.02 per share, up from $31.1 or 66 cents per share for the same quarter last year. Revenue was up 24 percent from $920.6 million from $740.5 million last year. Operating profit was up 51 percent to $97.3 million. Brink's said the increase was driven by "Latin American Operations and Brink's Home Security Unit."

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