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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.

Maybe there's hope for the guard industry. Maybe not.

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Friday, March 21, 2008
In the past, I've been critical of the security guard industry, saying guards are, for the large part, underpaid, under-trained, and unlikely to be particularly helpful in times of crisis. This opinion was sharpened by my time in Israel, where guards are a more highly valued piece of society's machine. However, some news coming out of USProtect's bankruptcy gives me hope. Well, a little hope. Basically, it's impressive to me that security guards, after having their paychecks bounce, didn't just walk off the job. I would have understood that inclination, certainly. But they kept their posts, which are theoretically important to the safety of others. That's the good. If they see their jobs as valuable and important, that's a great thing and proves true the argument that guards would be more dedicated and professional if they were just given some more training and made to feel like professionals. However, some of this article troubles me. As in, we don't actually have a security officer quoted saying her job is valuable and important. Instead, it's a financial thing, which, again, is understandable, but maybe disappointing. Jones said her co-workers have been professional and continued to work in the chance that they can keep their jobs and get paid for the work they did for USProtect. Imagine a quote from a firefighter, working, say, for a town that didn't get the tax receipts it expected and had to declare bankruptcy. Imagine her check bounced. Wouldn't you hope for a quote along the lines of, "Hey, we're going to keep working because someone's house might catch fire tonight, and I couldn't bear death or destruction I could have protected"? Maybe Jones said something like that and the reporter just didn't feel it was part of the story, but I would have liked to have heard it.

Brivo and ADT do 24-hour fitness

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
A couple posts down, I linked to a story about 24-hour fitness centers and their need for a good security partner. Well, it looks like ADT and Brivo have already gotten the message. They've partnered with a company called eFit Financial, which does a bunch of back-end web and HR stuff for fitness clubs, so that eFit can offer a 24-hour access service to any company that wants to tack it onto eFit's standard management package. Brivo provides the access software integration through its XML-based software and the panels and ADT does all the installation. Here's a glowing quote: “The integrated software has been great. We use it more than our security cameras,” said Nikki Funk, Owner of 24 Athletic Club in Benton, Arkansas. “I can log in from home, see who exactly is at the gym, and when they’ve come in. It’s awesome, we can even open doors remotely—like when one of us is late to a meeting or the janitorial crew wants to drop off supplies. We can pretty much take care of everything from anywhere, instead of having to run to the club at all hours.” If ADT is involved, then the business model probably makes a lot of sense.

Ports are a problem

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
In this story out of Canada, I'm fairly certain you can substitute the words "United States" for "Canada" and not change the accuracy in any way. Unfortunately, it takes an incident to draw public attention to North America's various security holes. In this case, four Algerian guys stowed away on a bus on a container ship, then "sprinted away from the commissionaire staffing the entrance of the Cerescorp container terminal in Fairview." Those dudes must have been fast, because it took five hours to catch them. What the incident has done is get people talking, which is good: "Right now, they throw a lot of publicity at it and they say the system’s working well and they got these guys," said Bruce Brine, who headed the Halifax ports police more than a decade ago. "And I can appreciate that. They’re police executives and they have to maintain a positive public image. But basically, we’re wide open and this incident the other day just shows it. "They were just illegals trying to get in. If they were actually organized, they would have been more covert. ""What it amounts to is anybody who wants to get into the country illegally can." Brine is advocating for a dedicated ports police force. That may be a solution to the problem - there may be a number of solutions to the problem. The important thing is that people take the problem seriously, then apply whichever solutions make the most sense. Here's the scary stuff: "With that, I think they’ve accepted a tremendous liability for the taxpayers of Halifax," Mr. Brine said. "Let’s say an American cruise ship comes in and something happens, somebody gets at it because there’s no waterside security and the thing’s blown up and we have hundreds of people killed. Who is going to get sued?" It would probably take a major terrorist attack in a Canadian port to revive the ports police, said Mike Toddington, executive director of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police. "Had the port police been around at the time of 9-11, there would have been absolutely no consideration of getting rid of the port police," said Mr. Toddington, who used to head the Vancouver ports police. Brine seems like a well-meaning guy, but I'm a little more worried about the "hundreds of people killed" than I am about who's liable for for the lawsuit. Doesn't that seem incredibly cynical? Security isn't about saving money, it's about saving people. Until governments (and the public that elects them) start valuing life a little more highly, security is always going to be an after-thought, something governments deal with because they don't want to look bad.

In defense of false alarms

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Next time you find yourself trying to defend the amount of false alarms in the industry (yeah, yeah we all know somebody said 97 to 99 percent of all alarms are false), cite this case to prove that SOMETIMES, false alarms can be a good thing. After all, they do get the police out there and in cases like this, cause them to hit the jackpot:PHOENIX — Officers seized 900 pounds of marijuana, thousands of dollars in cash and three firearms at a Phoenix home after responding to what turned out to be a false alarm. Sgt. Andy Hill said Sunday that patrol officers responded to a west Phoenix home after a burglar alarm went off at about 2 p.m. Saturday. While investigating, Hill says officers spotted a man jump a wall by the house. Not knowing if there had been a burglary, the officers chased the man into the backyard of a nearby home. While arresting him, officers saw a storage room door open with numerous bales of marijuana inside. They found a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and about $10,000 in cash inside the house. All I have to say is 900 POUNDS of marijuana?! In bales? Really? I sure hope the police waived the fine for that guy's alarm.

Vultures swarm around USProtect carcass

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Not that I have any sympathy for them, but I wouldn't want to be the execs (former execs) at USProtect right now. You know, they're the guys who bribed a GSA employee with cash and cruises and landed $100 million+ in federal contracts? Yeah, those guys. Anyway, they're getting what's coming to them. As in: The Maryland U.S. attorney's office is seeking $6.9 million and property from a bank account owned by a Silver Spring security company whose former executive has admitted bribing a government official to secure $130 million in contracts. Federal prosecutors filed the forfeiture claim yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against USProtect, formerly called Holiday International Security, which provided guards for 18 federal agencies at 120 installations in 32 states and territories. USProtect is also now in bankruptcy filings, so if they owe you money, fat chance seeing it. As in, if you're a guard working for them, your paycheck is going to bounce. I'm kind of shocked the Baltimore Sun is the only real mainstream outlet covering this story. It seems ripe for the Dateline treatment, if you ask me - fat government contracts, bribery, everybody's fessed up.

business, video

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
So this morning I found an interesting video monitoring application being used in meat processing plants. I realize it's not exactly the market for the average security installer or integrator, but I thought it was a good example of how security technology is moving beyond traditional applications and is actually being used to improve business operations (and, in this case, the health of consumers). Arrowsight is a company that provides remote video auditing (RVA) technology (a new acronym for me), and installs these systems in meat processing and animal handling factories so managers can constantly monitor "the line" to ensure that employees are following food safety standards. In the wake of this massive meat recall with video surfacing showing unimaginable violations of meat handling compliance, knowing that somebody is keeping an eye on how the nation's meat is being handled is slightly comforting (although the company's who are progressive enough to install video monitoring systems probably aren't the ones using fork lifts to move sick cattle into the slaughter house). For the security integrators out there, this is just another example of how security systems are moving beyond traditional applications and truly becoming a tool to improve business.

Who's looking out for the industry on Capitol Hill?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
To support member of Congress who are looking out for the interests of the security industry on Capital Hill, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association has formed a new Political Action Committee. NBFAA's government relations guru John Chwat said in a statement that PACS are a great way to facilitate contributions to U.S. Congressional candidates in House and Senate races. "The legal minefield one must navigate to give directly to a candidate is confusing at best, and PACs avoid the possible problems inherent in companies trying to manage individual contributions," he said. The NBFAA will soon begin soliciting PAC contributions from member companies.

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