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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.

Surveillance push back

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Monday, March 24, 2008
There's been a lot of talk in the industry about using IP video systems and access control for more than just security: business efficiency, HR, marketing efforts, etc. It makes a lot of sense. If you could know what all of your employees were doing when they were in the building, you'd have a better idea of how to run your business. And why shouldn't an integrator sell against that natural insecurity most business owners have? Well, there are hurdles to overcome. Here's a classic "Big Brother" op-ed out of Canada. The central message is a warning to workers that they'd better watch their backs (or the heating grates, anyway) for spying employers. As in: "What's the mood?" he asks. "It's terrible, like Big Brother watching over your shoulder all the time. Oh, boo-hoo. I highlight this sort of thing because the security industry needs to be aware of this mentality, and develop arguments and sales tactics to assuage such fears, but I have to admit I find it silly that this sort of thing persists. What is so bad about your employer knowing what you're doing during work hours? It's inexplicable. Like baseball players who are against steroids testing. In this article, readers are warned that there may be a GPS unit in your company car, so don't go to the bar at 3 p.m. Seriously? Because otherwise, going to the bar at 3 p.m. would be a good idea and totally acceptable business practice? I hate working for the man. If only I could drink all day and get paid to do it like people in an ideal world would get to do. I'm pretty sure that's what Thomas More's Utopia was like, actually, a place where you could just get drunk, walk around in your underpants, and play online poker all day. That would be sweet, wouldn't it? That people want to be worker bees, completely untied from a company's success, cultivating an us-against-the-bossman mentality, may be human nature, and I get that human nature isn't necessarily rational, but it's frustrating nonetheless. Anyway, back to that message-is-important thing: "The next thing will probably be a fingerprint reader to log into computer systems [instead of using a password]," says David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax. "You can see how a lot of these technologies are really convenient. But a lot of people would say, 'I don't want anybody to have my thumbprint.' " Good thing Craig Silverman interviewed a privacy lawyer who doesn't know what he's talking about. That's wicked helpful (to use a Maine expression). Um, I'm thinking the fingerprint reader used to log onto the network is the current thing, considering there are about a 100 million laptops and computers out there that already have this functionality. And, thanks to companies like Privaris, there's no reason for anyone to store anyone's fingerprint. Isn't that awesome Mr. Privacy Lawyer? Or does that maybe mean fewer billable hours? Hard to say. Clearly, mainstream education is going to be important in the growth of the industry.

Fire detection to reach $707m. by 2013

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Monday, March 24, 2008
A new Frost and Sullivan report released today says there will be steady growth in the North American fire and smoke detection devices market. Revenues, which the report estimates to be $570.2 million in 2006, will reach $707.1 million in 2013. The report says Increased use of addressable systems and IP-based will contribute growth in the market, while the "regulated procedures" that take considerable time, such as getting approvals from U.L. "remain a critical restraint to the entry of these new technologies."

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USProtect story keeps getting more bizarre

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Friday, March 21, 2008
USProtect is turning into a car accident by the side of the road. I've just got to slow down and take a look. I can't help myself. Here are some new details from Forbes: Judge Thomas J. Catliota of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Greenbelt, Md., on Wednesday ordered an interim trustee to take over the operations of USProtect, which provided security guards to federal office buildings and courthouses. Wachovia Bank had asked for the judge to step in, claiming USProtect's management was "nonexistent" after the company's owner fired its accountant and financial advisers last week and several other key executives resigned. How'd you like to be Wachovia, owed $15 million by a bunch of crooks? Then again, $15 million is probably chump change for Wachovia. And I know USProtect got these contracts through bribes and all, but was anybody in the federal government paying attention to whom they were doing business with? The bank claims Hudec paid herself more than $5 million in salary while acting solely in a "figurehead capacity" as chairman of USProtect's board. These people reprehensible, suckling at the teat of the taxpayers. I sort of hate them.

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